“We could just—“
I rolled my eyes and thumped my temple against the window. Chris pouted at me in the darkness, one hand curled around the wheel and the other supporting a glowing cigarette. Embers trickled from the end, losing light as they melted into the dark air. He’d parked outside the local McDonald’s after I’d forced him to leave the inside of my fridge. I hadn’t specifically said to take me to a greasy fast-food restaurant, but it was hardly surprising. Chris wasn’t one to stop thinking of his stomach. Even when parents were missing and friends could possibly be wanted by the government for being alien—
My gut squeezed. No. Baby steps, baby steps.
I jumped as the back door of the car swung open. I shot Chris a look and he just winked.
“Guys and girls, ladies and lads, why in God’s name are we holed up in the back of a grubby fast-food place?”
My look darkened. The American grinned and turned to greet Isabella, smoke leaking from his lips. There was a sound of wet kissing and I mimed throwing up.
“Oh, cheer up,” his girlfriend hollered from the back seat. “Just because your last girlfriend was...oh no, wait, never.”
I glanced up in the mirror and fought a sigh. Bella had been our friend for nearly three years. Rather loud, obnoxiously so, pretty yet smart to the point of unfairness. She and Chris had decided to change their relationship status a few months back and so far, I still hadn’t adapted to the change. It was weird seeing people you’d known since you were thirteen playing tonsil tennis.
I hated to admit it but she was right. I was insanely jealous of the two of them. Since I’d known him, Chris had had plenty of ‘girlfriends’—i.e. people he could call when he needed some fun—but I’d never seen him like he was with Bella. They were connected in a way I’d never seen off a TV screen. Whenever she shifted, he would alter his position to mirror her without thinking twice about it. It was...peculiar to say the least. Seeing the two of them married and surrounded by chubby little bronze babies wasn’t difficult.
“So, kiddliwinks, what were you discussing before I graced you with my presence?”
Chris opened his mouth but I interjected quickly. “My mum’s missing and Chris was trying to convince me to go find her.”
I watched her expression in the mirror. Her face twitched into a smile, waiting for the joke, for the punch-line. It wasn’t until none came that the smile finally fell. White washed over her face and her manicured hand settled on my shoulder, squeezing lightly. I think she was waiting for me to break down, to start getting hysterical—like I’d been in the kitchen. But the numbness had flooded in as soon as we’d left the house. It had settled like oil over my brain. Dulling my senses, my emotions, until I barely flinched when I repeated the words, my mother has disappeared and probably isn’t coming back, inside my head.
“Tom...I’m so sorry” she whispered, leaning in-between the front seats. Her warm breath washed over my cheek, reminding me just why girls were great. She pulled her slender limbs through the gap and landed in my lap. Any other girl and I would’ve probably cried. But Bella was my best friend, and her hugs, however platonic, were ace.
Pulling back, she whispered, “What will you do? Have you told the police?”
“That’s who told me she was gone,” I mumbled. “They came to give me a note she’d left.”
“Can I see it?”
I pulled the note from my pocket. Face shrouded in darkness, Bella’s eyes tore across the page. She took less time than either of us had to read it.
Looking up sharply, she gripped my bicep tight and, with wide, doe eyes, said, “Thomas Mitchell Crawley. Please tell me that you are going to this address right the hell now.”
Chris laughed, linking his fingers with hers absent-mindedly. The sound was odd in the small car space. He never was one to dwell on the bad things; he mostly focused on making them better.
I just sighed, plucking the paper back. “No, okay? I don’t want to know if I’m some sort of creepy alien child. I just want my mum back.”
Her eyes narrowed. “And you think not going to this place is gonna bring her back, chump? ‘Cause I sure as hell don’t.”
“Okay,” I snapped, pushing her off my lap. “Time for you to get your butt back in the back of the car.”
Chris scowled at me and pulled Bella into his instead. To me, he muttered, “Don’t be an ass.” Isabella grinned and pressed her lips to his. They wound their arms around each other, bodies moving as their mouths locked sweetly. I shifted uncomfortably, forcing my eyes ahead. They were making out purely to spite me. To get me so embarrassed so that I would go to that address. It wasn’t going to work, no matter how much they’d push me.
I swallowed dryly.
“I love you,” Bella whispered against his lips.
I am totally fine.
I groaned and threw my hands up in the air, “Fine! Jesus, fine! I’ll go!”
The two pulled apart and whooped, high fiving. I pressed the heels of my palms against my eye sockets.
What the hell was I doing?